What snacks can I make to keep me away from the biscuits while working from home?
Jess, London SE17
Snack enthusiast Melissa Hemsley suggests rolling “happiness” balls: “They’ve got sweetness, saltiness and whole ingredients.” The cook and author of Eat Green melts four tablespoons of coconut oil, then adds the same of maple syrup, six tablespoons of cocoa powder, eight of nut butter and a pinch of sea salt. “Stir for about a minute, until it melts, bung it in a plastic box and freeze,” she says. “It sets in half an hour. Scoop out spoonfuls, roll into balls, then coat in coconut, cocoa or toasted hazelnuts.” You could add peppermint or orange extract, or replace half the nut butter with tahini.
Fruit (satsuma segments, apple slices) dipped in chocolate is another Hemsley favourite, while James Rich, author of Apple, turns braeburns and coxes into crisps. “Thinly slice, pop on a tray – ideally one that’s raised, so the air can get all the way around them – leave overnight in a very low oven [50C fan], and they will dry out.” Rich stores them in a jar, ready for chopping and putting in flapjacks or to eat sprinkled with sea salt.
Condiments are a lifesaver for Lara Lee, author of Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen. “I always have a jar of sambal and peanut sauce in my fridge,” she says, ready to accessorise crudites, boiled eggs or kerupuk, an Indonesian cracker typically made from rice or tapioca flour. The secret to a brilliant peanut sauce, Lee says, is to fry 80-100g raw, unsalted, redskin peanuts until golden. “Blend with cooked chillies, garlic, tamarind, salt and kecap manis [Indonesian fermented soy sauce], and season to taste, adding more tamarind or kecap manis.”
Dip-wise, Hemsley roasts carrots or squash until tender, then blends or forks them to a rough mash, adding nut butter, tahini or yoghurt, and salt and pepper. She eats that dolloped on cucumber rounds – “It feels more of an event than dipping” – but bread, celery and roast sweet potato slices also make good vehicles.
Muffin frittatas are yet more proof that you can never have too many egg recipes. Success, Hemsley says, lies in a 50:50 egg-to-veg ratio: “Crack six eggs into a bowl, grate in a carrot and two small courgettes – give them a little squeeze first, to expel excess liquid – throw in a handful of grated cheddar and season.” You could grate in half an onion or leek, or add rosemary, leftover roasties, ham or smoked fish, too. Pour the mix into a greased muffin tray, top with more cheese and bake at 170C fan for 10-15 minutes (keep an eye on them, though).
Lastly, make friends with multi-purpose snacks, AKA things you can eat by the handful and use to bolster future meals. Roast chickpeas and beans are a good example, Hemsley says: “If I’m opening a tin, I’ll reserve some for roasting with curry powder or ras el hanout. And if I don’t eat them all, I’ll pop them on soups or salads.” And you can’t do that with a Hobnob.